At least 37 supporters of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) were reportedly arrested and 16 tortured in relation to peaceful demonstrations to commemorate the 1962 New York Agreement in the towns Sentani, Jayapura Regency, and Dekai, Yahukimo Regency, on 14 and 15 August 2023. In Sentani, 16 KNPB activists were arrested while distributing leaflets for the rally. The incidents underscore ongoing tensions between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian authorities due to fail-driven development, marginalisation, and racism, differing views on the integration of West Papua in the Indonesian State, and ongoing human rights violations in the region.
The KNPB spokesperson, Mr Ones Suhuniap, condemned the police violence, stressing that the police must respect and protect the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression. Mr Emanuel Gobay, Director of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), criticized the police for using excessive force against peaceful demonstrations. Gobay noted that the KNPB had followed the legal mechanisms outlined in the National Law on Freedom of Expression in Public. KNPB representatives had notified the police of the protest beforehand. He called for an investigation and punishment of the police officers involved in the violence to ensure equal law enforcement.
Jayapura Police Chief Commissioner Frederickus Maclarimboen claimed that four protesters were beaten because they were allegedly involved in damaging a police car. He added that the demonstration was illegal because the KNPB did not have a permit for the rally.
The statement mirrors a widespread false understanding among police members in West Papua. The police usually use the lack of a “police acknowledgment letter” (“Surat Tanda Terima Pemberitahuan” STTP) in response to a “notification letter for a demonstration” as a reason to declare demonstrations illegal. Human rights activists documented a large number of cases in which the police refused to issue an STTP to prevent particular Papuan civil society groups from enjoying their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
Both fundamental freedoms can only be restricted if the police intervention is lawful, necessary, and proportionate in order to protect national security or public safety, prevent disorder or crime, protect health or morals, or protect the rights and freedoms of other people. Police intervention must be appropriate and no more than necessary to address the issue concerned.
Dekai, Yahukimo Regency
On 14 August 2023, police officers arbitrarily arrested 16 KNPB members at Baliem Road, the BRI Bank Branch intersection in Dekai, Yahukimo Regency. The arrests took place at 11:20 AM, as they were intending to participate in a funeral. The activists were subsequently taken to the Yahukimo District Police Office, where they were interrogated for one hour. All were released at 12:15 PM after the police did not find incriminating evidence against them.
Table of KNPB activists arrested in Dekai on 14 August 2023
|1||Lanni Husage||16 years|
|2||Yosua Siep||18 years|
|3||Hernus Siep||15 years|
|4||Manu Husage||14 years|
|5||Yally Esema||14 years|
|6||Ayalkek Matuan||27 years|
|7||Wenas Siep||14 years|
|8||Elius Itlay||35 years|
|9||Arius Siep||13 years|
|10||Amonius Siep||14 years|
|11||Eben Matuan||24 years|
|12||Oelekma Matuan||19 years|
|13||Yepianus Siep||14 years|
|14||Yopius Siep||35 years|
|15||Oppy Lokon||16 years|
|16||Ebber Matuan||14 years|
Sentani, Jayapura Regency
On 12 August 2023, Police officers arrested 21 KNPB activists at the junction near Pasar Lama in the town of Sentani, Jayapura Regency, Papua Province (see table below, source: KNPB). The arrests occurred around 10:30 AM while the KNPB activists distributed leaflets inviting participation to a peaceful demonstration on 15 August 2023. All activists were later released after being interrogated by the police.
KNPB spokesperson Ones Suhuniap stated that the activists were distributing the leaflets to commemorate the 1962 New York Agreement and acts of racism experienced by Papuan students in Surabaya, Jawa Timur Province, in August 2019. The activists called upon the United Nations to review the New York Agreement, which regulated the transfer of the former Netherlands New Guinea from the Netherlands to Indonesia.
KNPB members at the Sentani Police station, 12 August 2023
Table of KNPB activists arrested in Sentani on 12 August 2023
On 15 August 2023, police officers forcefully dispersed a peaceful demonstration in commemoration of the New York Agreement in the town of Sentani. Sixteen protesters were reportedly injured due to police violence (see table below, source: KNPB). A video recorded during the protest shows fully armed police officers pushing back the crowd while a police truck shoots with water cannons into the crowd (see video below, source: independent HRDs). According to information received, the officers beat protesters using shields, rubber batons, and rattan sticks (see photo on top, source: Jubi). The sixteen injured activists, aged between 17 and 23 years, suffered severe head injuries, with some bleeding heavily. Mr Eko Passe had to be admitted to the Public Hospital in Doyo Baru, Sentani after the wound on his head did not stop bleeding (see photos below, source: KNPB).
Table of KNPB supporters tortured in Sentani on 15 August 2023
|1||Eko Passe||21 years||Sustained bleeding head injury, and had to be admitted to the Doyo Baru General Hospital.|
|2||Imer Matuan||20 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|3||Deli Kahipmabin||20 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|4||Emis Telenggan||21 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|5||Yames Well||21 years||Sustained bruises on the hand|
|6||Rulex Esema||19 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|7||Frangki Kogoya||16 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|8||Melinus Bagau||19 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|9||Oktalen Kalakmabin||18 years||Sustained bleeding head injury|
|10||Keros Balingga||18 years||Sustained bruises on the eye|
|11||Nodi Tepmul||21 years||Sustained bruises on the back|
|12||Erpon Heluka||20 years||Sustained bruises on the back|
|13||Natalius Pase||19 years||Sustained bruises on the hand|
|14||Fero Mangki Walilo||17 years||Sustained bruises on the hand|
|15||Tia Felle||18 years||Sustained bruises on the body, clothes were torn|
|16||Hosan Peyon||21 years||Sustained bruises on the body|